Hafiz Muhammad Talha was at home when he heard that the LDA plaza was on fire. The 19-year-old immediately called his father Talib Hussain, a stenographer at the Lahore Development Authority, who was stuck in the building.
Talha, a student, rushed to the scene and saw his father perched on a window sill at the seventh floor of the building. He made several more calls to his father, in between fielding calls from concerned relatives.
“The last words I heard from him were, ‘Don’t worry, Rescue 1122 is here, they will save us,’” Talha says, speaking to The Express Tribune at Services Hospital. Shortly after the fifth and final phone call, Talha saw his father plunge to his death, one of at least eight who died in Thursday’s fire.
Talha says he could see his father screaming for help, but neither the helicopter hovering around the building nor the rescue teams below could reach him. Rescuers held a life net for him to jump onto. First, Talib Hussain pushed out Muhammad Asif from the window, though he feared the man was already dead from smoke inhalation, says Talha. “He said that he had to try to save him,” he says.
As rescuers removed the limp and lifeless Asif from the net, Hussain jumped too. “They moved the net seconds before he jumped,” says Talha. Hussain landed on the exhaust of an air-conditioning unit, and died at the scene.
Ganga Ram Hospital
Shams Alam, personal assistant to the LDA director general, and Syed Waseem, another LDA employee, were rescued from the ninth floor of the plaza via an emergency ladder.
“It was an agonising wait, watching rescuers try to get the ladder aligned to the building and reaching up to him,” said his son Naveed Alam, speaking at Ganga Ram Hospital, where his father was being treated for smoke inhalation. “I think the operation was very slow.”
“Rescue 1122 clearly needs more equipment for such rescue operations,” said Syed Aqeel, Waseem’s brother. He was grateful that his brother was safe, but sad at the deaths of some of his colleagues.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2013.